Saturday, April 03, 2021


Montaigne's Gyrations

Dear Mike,

I'm reading Montaigne aux champs (Ann-Marie Cocula and Alain Legros, Éditions Sud Ouest, 2011) — from which the photographed plates — and at the same time the Essays bk II.

It struck me, in the 'On the inconstancy of our actions' (II.1), that there is an extended metaphor, variously captured in the English translations, that might have come rather easily to an author with a circumferential library ensconced in a cylinder.

Toutes les contrarietez s'y trouvent selon quelque tour et en quelque façon. Honteux, insolent; chaste, luxurieux; bavard, taciturne; laborieux, delicat; ingenieux, hebeté; chagrin, debonaire; menteur, veritable; sçavant, ignorant, et liberal, et avare, et prodigue, tout cela, je le vois en moy aucunement, selon que je me vire; et quiconque s'estudie bien attentifvement trouve en soy, voire et en son jugement mesme, cette volubilité et discordance. (my italics)

selon quelque tour et en quelque façon

'according to some turn or removing' (John Florio)
'according to some twist or attribute' (Donald Frame)
'depending upon some twist or attribute' (M.A. Screech)

selon que je me vire

'according as I stirre or turne myself' Fl.
'according to how I turn' Fr.
'depending on how I gyrate' S.

cette volubilité et discordance

'this volubility and discordance' Fl.
'this gyration and discord' Fr.
'this whirring about and this discordancy' S.

Florio's use of ‘volubility' would fit nicely among the early citations:

OED s.v. volubility 2a. The capacity of revolving, rolling, or turning round; aptness to rotate about an axis or centre.
1593 R. Hooker Of Lawes Eccl. Politie i. iii. 53 If celestiall spheres should forget their wonted motions and by irregular volubilitie, turne themselues any way as it might happen.
1601 P. Holland tr. Pliny Hist. World I. 31 The world with continuall volubilitie and turning about it, driveth the..globe thereof into the forme of a round ball.
1656 T. Stanley Hist. Philos. II. viii. 26 He who thrust the Cylinder, gave it the beginning of motion, but did not give it volubility.

I wonder if it was equidistance that gave Montaigne equanimity?

Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]

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